Are sleeping pills bad?

My boyfriend took 60 sleeping pills

Dear Cary,

It’s been a little more than two months since my boyfriend took 60 sleeping pills before we went to bed. We live in different states; I had initially planned on going home that Sunday night, but he talked me into staying. It wasn’t hard, as we only really have weekends together. An hour after we went to bed, I woke up to a noise. He was vomiting in his sleep. I tried everything to wake him up. I thought it must be food poisoning; I had no idea. He has been staying with his parents, so after turning him on his side, splashing water on his face, shaking him and yelling to please wake up, I ran and got his mother. We called 911. She asked if he had taken anything. I said, no, I had been with him all day … except for two hours when I had gone to visit my own parents.

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Then she found the note. It was rushed, very short. The paramedics came, as did the police, and eventually I found the two empty bottles of sleeping pills in his car.

Turns out, this was not his first attempt. The previous one also took place on a Sunday night when I was in bed beside him. It was severe diarrhea, we had had shrimp that night, he said it must have been food poisoning and I had no reason to think otherwise. He has a history of depression but had never let on how serious, and I had never even considered killing himself a possibility. We were (are?) in love.

Two months later, he seems to be doing better. It has taken a few trials, but he seems (or says) that the meds he is on now are working. He says he feels better. He is no longer drinking, at all. The problem is, I have a hard time believing him now. His medical insurance is so poor that while he has been able to get meds prescribed, he has not yet been able to see a therapist. As a result, I constantly analyze his words and actions, look for “signs” that I obviously missed the first time around, and am generally hypersensitive and overly emotional. I cry a lot. He doesn’t get it. Once, he even told me to “lighten up.”

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When we get into arguments — about his need to be more proactive about finding a therapist, about what certain things, like his continuing irresponsibility with money or his insomnia mean — he gets defensive and angry. Later he concedes, but I don’t know if it’s because he really understands what I am now going through, or if he just feels like he has to comfort his sad girlfriend.

At the same time, I know that comforting me is probably not his first priority at this point and so I later feel guilty after a breakdown. At times (when we’re not directly talking about him) he has been very patient and sweet with my crying fits, or when I just want to talk. He is a good person, caring. We have been dating for almost two years, but have known each other for more than 12 (since high school).

A large part of his depression stemmed from the fact that he is 29 and living with his parents, has a job he doesn’t like, and lives in a town where there are constant reminders of things he has failed in — past jobs, a marriage, college. And so I made some calls. A former colleague’s husband works in exactly the same industry that my boyfriend dreamed of getting into. I asked if maybe they could have a conversation, just for advice. Turns out the man had a vacant position, had my boyfriend come in for a trial, and has now hired him. He starts in two weeks. He is moving in.

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I think it is a great job and a necessary change for him. But I am battling constant anxiety that I am now taking in a man who I can never be sure is mentally stable, who promises he’ll set up an appointment with a local therapist before he comes. (But what if he doesn’t? Do I refuse him coming?) What do I do if he tries this again and his parents aren’t there to help? I am scared. I want to believe in him. I think this is the fresh start he needs and I believe that, had this not been a factor, I would be completely ready to live with him, but honestly, I am not yet over it all. Every day, I think of that night. He thinks of life as “before” (the attempt) and “after” — but I have a harder time doing so.

I want to help him as much as I can. I am stable, with a good job and good friends in this city, and I believe a change is what he needs. But I do not want to be his mother or even his caretaker, especially because he so hates feeling like he is being mothered or taken care of. I need to know how to deal. Am I jeopardizing our relationship, or myself, by letting him move in so soon? I am, after all, the one who found him this job … I just didn’t know it would happen so quickly. What do I do?

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Help.

Dear Help,

My compassion is aroused more sharply by your boyfriend’s plight than yours. So this is addressed to him:

Dear Suicidal Boyfriend,

You need a reason to live. Nothing makes sense without it. Because once the long sleep closes over you, you’ve got nothing left, not even a self to feel sorry for. And you leave the living with nothing but the sound of grieving and anger and the will to forget.

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But they can’t forget you, of course. So you become a stain. You become a scar on the back, a limp in the leg, a stutter in the voice, a sty in the eye, a catch in the throat, a loss in the wind, the car nobody drives anymore, the nothing that itches like nothing else; you become everything gone and ethereal and hungry, everything not quite right and not quite there and not quite ever again the same; you become the floorboard that squeaks in the night, the wind that gets in through the cracks, the secondhand smoke that kills the barmaid; you become all those things that don’t make sense and don’t add up and don’t help us get where we’re going. And all the while you could be instead the thing that made the difference, the final 20 cents for a hamburger and fries, the arm the old lady leans on when she has a dizzy spell, the shadow cast on a thirsty dog, someone to open a door for someone, someone to make a child out of nothing but a fiery impulse. So why become the crumbs and sand at the bottom of the bag, the rain-stained receipt in the trunk of the car, the canceled checks in the drawer, the unused bottle of perfume, why become what doesn’t matter but won’t go away, what is both tragic and annoying; why undermine the grace we seek against the tedious dark?

You need only persist. People write to me and tell me how painful it is to persist. They tell me I don’t understand quite how bad it is to persist, the depression, the anxiety. They say a person has a right to end it. I say life is better than death. Even in my darkest moments, I believe that. I say where there is life there is hope.

As to you, dear letter writer, since you have already made the decision to let him move in, and since a promise of employment has been made to him that appears to be contingent on his being there in the city, you should honor the promise you made. But you may need to make some hard choices soon. He may need to live on his own for a while. Living with a lover who has attempted suicide puts you in great emotional peril. No matter what you do, you cannot ensure that he will thrive and cast off his demons. He may or he may not. You just never know. If you should lose him while he is living with you, it will be the kind of thing one sometimes never gets over. The best you can do, it seems to me, is insist that he avail himself of any and all help that is available, and make it clear that it’s very possible he may need to get his own place until he’s stable. Meanwhile, be sure you take extra good care of yourself.

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  • By Joan McClusky
    HealthDay Reporter

    WEDNESDAY, Oct. 4, 2017 (HealthDay News) — More Americans are having trouble getting a good night’s sleep, a national health survey found.

    And the number of people who use prescription sleeping pills in the quest for shuteye continues to increase — currently about 4 percent of Americans, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    But are they safe? And are they even effective?

    Results of studies done on the health hazards of sleeping pills vary widely, from one that found barely any elevated risk to another that found the risk of death for users is three times higher than it is for people who don’t take them.

    Research published in the American Journal of Public Health confirms that fatal overdoses are a concern. There are also possible side effects and dependency problems to consider.

    Plus, according to Consumer Reports, over the long term, sleeping pills might not even bring their intended results.

    If you’re taking sleeping pills, it’s important to only use them with your doctor’s OK and according to his or her instructions. If you take them too often, they can actually make your sleep problems worse.

    So, how can you know if you’re abusing sleeping pills? Here are some warning signs:

    • You’re taking extra doses to see if that works better, or a second pill in the middle of the night if you wake up.
    • You’re taking a prescription sleeping pill AND an over-the-counter sedation product at the same time.
    • You’re using sleeping pills to treat anxiety.
    • You’re taking sleeping pills during the day or when you need to be alert.
    • You’ve taken a sleeping pill every night for more than 7 to 10 days, or several times a week for weeks or months.

    If you have any of these red flags, it’s time to talk to your doctor about a new plan for getting quality sleep, including regular exercise and cognitive behavior therapy to harness the power of your mind.

    Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Take a Sleeping Pill Every Night

    Tens of millions of Americans struggle to sleep at night, and many of them turn to sleeping pills for relief. Prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids are especially popular among older adults. A recent study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that roughly one in three adults ages 65 to 80 use these drugs at least occasionally to fall asleep, and OTC meds like Benadryl and Tylenol PM are the pills of choice for sleepless seniors.

    Experts say this is concerning for a number of reasons. Studies have linked the regular, long-term use of OTC sleep medicines to some potentially serious side effects.

    “Many OTC sleep aids—such as Benadryl and Tylenol PM—contain diphenhydramine,” says Dr. Donovan Maust, co-author of the recent study and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Michigan Medicine. Diphenhydramine is an anticholinergic drug, which means it blocks activity of a brain chemical called acetylcholine, which plays a role in muscle activation and also in brain functions like alertness, learning and memory, Maust says.

    As a result of this blocking effect, these OTC drugs can cause constipation, confusion and other side effects, which Maust says may be more likely to affect older adults. For these reasons, the American Geriatric Society has deemed these drugs “generally inappropriate” for seniors.

    The side effects of these OTC pills can also set off a “prescribing cascade,” says Jennifer Schroeck, a clinical pharmacist with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Western New York Healthcare System and co-author of a 2016 review published in the journal Clinical Therapeutics on the safety of sleep aids among older adults.

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    For example, in men with prostate conditions, anticholinergic drugs can lead to urinary retention, or problems fully emptying the bladder, Schroeck says. A man experiencing this issue may not attribute it to the sleep medicine he’s taking at night to sleep, and if he fails to mention it to his doctor, he may be prescribed a new medication to treat his bladder problems. “That new drug may have side effects too, so then something else is added to manage those,” she says. In this way, the medications a patient is taking—and their many side effects—can add up quickly.

    There is also growing worry about another more-serious risk associated with these OTC drugs. “Another concern for which evidence is growing is that long-term use appears to increase the risk of dementia—and the more use, the greater the risk,” Maust says.

    One 2015 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that over a 10-year period, people who regularly took the amount of diphenhydramine found in two Benadryl or two Extra Strength Tylenol PM pills roughly once every week or two were at significantly increased risk for dementia. For individuals who took these drugs about once every three days (or more), their dementia risks rose by 54% compared to people who did not take these types of medications.

    The links between these OTC drugs and dementia are far from certain. A more recent study from the UK turned up only “tentative” links, and its authors stated that more research is needed. “But the only way to 100% attribute a health issue to any specific treatment is through a randomized trial,” Maust says, referring to an experiment in which one group of people is given a drug and another is not. (To his knowledge, these studies are not being done.)

    Prescription sleep aids carry their own risks. “There are new reports of side effects coming out on a yearly basis,” says Kari Mergenhagen, a clinical pharmacist and adjunct instructor at the University of Buffalo. (Mergenhagen was also a co-author on the Veterans Affairs sleep-aid study.) Headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and hallucinations are a few of the short-term concerns associated with hypnotics—a class of prescription drugs designed to induce sleep that includes Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata and other popular meds, she says.

    Mergenhagen says it’s very difficult for researchers to nail down the long-term risks associated with regular use of these drugs. One observational study published in 2012 in the BMJ looked at electronic medical records data from more than 30,000 adults and the usage of common hypnotics, including zolpidem (sold under the brand name Ambien and others), temazepam (Restoril), eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata) and other barbiturates, benzodiazepines and sedative antihistamines. The researchers found that those who were prescribed more than 132 doses of these hypnotic drugs per year—meaning those patients taking them at least every two or three days—had a 35% increase in cancer risk and a five-fold jump in risk of death compared to those not prescribed these drugs. Even people who took these drugs sparingly—like once every few weeks—were more likely to die than those who did not take them at all.

    The authors of the study tried to control for pre-existing medical conditions and other factors that could explain why people taking these drugs died or developed cancer at higher rates than non-users. The drugs were also associated with car accidents, falls and depression—all of which could explain the elevated mortality risks. But the risks remained. The authors also found associations between the use of hypnotics and specific types of cancer—notably, lymphomas and cancers of the lungs, colon and prostate—but they did not offer any cause-and-effect mechanisms that might explain the links. More recent research, in both people and animals, has turned up more preliminary links to cancer.

    The drugs are only meant to be used sparingly. The prescribing information for Ambien notes that the drug’s use should be “re-evaluated” if a patient’s insomnia persists after seven to 10 days of treatment—guidelines echoed by the makers of Lunesta. Both drugmakers define “long-term” use as anything beyond 28 days.

    Even setting aside the potential risks and side effects, sleeping pills aren’t an effective long-term solution for insomnia. “The real question is, why aren’t you sleeping?” Schroeck says. Many older adults may take sleeping pills because pain, nerve problems or other health issues are keeping them up at night, she says. For these people, a sleeping pill is standing in the way of them finding a true remedy for the ailment.

    Even for younger adults who can’t sleep because of stress, financial concerns or other sources of anxiety that are more difficult to treat, sleeping pills are a poor solution, she says. “Cognitive behavioral therapy should always be the first line of treatment,” she says. Other experts agree that cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia—which can include strategies like establishing a consistent sleep routine, purposely restricting time spent in bed or practicing mindfulness-based meditation—is the best way to cure insomnia.

    There’s still a time and place for prescription and OTC sleep aids. If you’re very stressed and need help nodding off the night before an important work or social event, these pills can be a big help. But if you’re taking them all the time—and especially if you’re older than 65—the risks these pills pose likely outweigh their benefits.

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    The Risks of Taking Sleeping Pills

    Erratic Behavior Side Effects

    We’ve all been known to do strange things in our sleep, but prescription sleeping pills, particularly benzodiazepines such as triazolam, have been known to cause side effects like sleepwalking and amnesia. “You’ll wake up, and you won’t know where you are,” Leavey says. This has also been seen in people who have taken the newer sleep aids like Ambien. If you (or your significant other) notice evidence of strange behavior while you’re taking sleeping pills, report these problems with sleeping pills to your doctor promptly.

    Falling Down

    Hospital patients who took zolpidem were four times more likely to fall than those who did not take the drug during their hospital stay, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine. “Falling is absolutely a problem,” Leavey says. “Your entire body is balanced on two little feet. You have sensors on your feet that constantly measure your center of gravity and where you are. If I give you a drug that dulls that system, you’ll fall down.” Older patients are particularly at risk for this problem with sleeping pills, he adds.

    Cancer and Death

    People who took prescription sleeping pills were more likely to die or get cancer than those who did not take them, according to a 2012 study published in BMJ Open. Though the results are concerning, they don’t necessarily mean that these drugs definitely cause negative side effects. “I would really want to see more evidence on that one,” Leavey says. The study’s authors suggest that cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of treatment that helps you change your thinking patterns, could be a better treatment for chronic insomnia than drugs.

    You May Have Trouble Weaning Off Sleeping Pills

    Once you begin taking sleeping pills, it can be hard to stop, particularly if you’ve been taking them for a long time. Some people experience “rebound insomnia” — when sleeping problems actually worsen once you stop taking the drug. If you want to go off your sleeping pills, talk to your doctor about setting up a schedule to gradually reduce your dosage, rather than just quitting cold turkey. “It may be rough coming off, but things will eventually get better,” Leavey says.

    Are Sleeping Pills Safe?

    Types of Sleeping Medications

    Doctors prescribe many different kinds of sleeping medications, each with its own set of side effects and intended treatment purpose. Historically, doctors treated sleep issues with benzodiazepines, central nervous system depressant medications that can have serious side effects. Newer non-benzodiazepines have fewer potentially dangerous side effects, but do not come without risks.

    The majority of available prescription sleeping pills can be addictive, abusing the prescription drugs increases the chance of becoming addicted.

    The sleeping medications that can lead to addiction include:

    Patients considering sleeping pills as a treatment option for sleep issues should ask their doctor about the side effects and potential for addiction development before beginning a medication regimen.

    Sleeping Pill Side Effects

    Although certain sleeping medications can cause unique side effects, general sleeping pill side effects include:

    • Dizziness or lightheadedness
    • Headache
    • Gastrointestinal problems (diarrhea, nausea)
    • Prolonged drowsiness
    • Daytime memory and performance problems
    • Allergic reaction
    • Parasomnia (undesirable behaviors during sleep)
    • Withdrawals
    • Overdose
    • Death

    Before taking a prescription or over-the-counter sleep aid, talk to your doctor about the potential side effects.

    Sleeping Pill Overdose

    Sedative-hypnotic drugs, such as Ambien or Edluar, are used to treat insomnia and other sleeping disorders. These medications can cause serious side effects, including overdose.

    Symptoms of sleeping pill overdose include:

    • Drowsiness
    • Shallow breathing
    • Slowed heartbeat
    • Coma

    A class of drugs called benzodiazepines is commonly used to treat insomnia, and they are generally safe compared to other tranquilizers and sedatives. Still, taking more of these drugs than prescribed by a physician can lead to overdose.

    Benzodiazepine overdose rarely causes death. However, mixing sleeping pills with other substances can be dangerous. For example, combining sleeping pills with alcohol increases the sedative effects of sleeping pills. Mixing these drugs can cause extreme organ damage and increase the risk for overdose and death.

    In you witness someone overdosing on sleeping pills, contact a local poison control center by calling 800-222-1222. If the individual is not breathing, call 911.

    Other Dangers from Sleeping Pills

    Combining certain behaviors or activities with sleeping pill use can lead to increased risks of danger and harm to you and others.

    These behaviors include:

    Impaired driving Sleeping pills can cause people to feel drowsy or experience effects similar to those from alcohol use when used improperly. You should never drive or operate machinery after taking sleeping pills. Parasomnias Abnormal behaviors that an individual does not remember after taking a sleeping medication are called parasomnias, and they are a common side effect of sleeping medications. Individuals may exhibit behaviors such as sleep eating, sleep walking and sleep driving. People experiencing sleep behaviors are not in control of their own actions and present a danger to themselves and others. Falling injuries Some sleeping medications, such as zolpidem, have been linked to increased risks of falls among users, which can result in injuries and even death. Higher risk of death Studies have shown that those who use sleep medications have more than three times the likelihood of life-threatening incidents when prescribed fewer than 18 sleeping pills per year. Further research indicates sleeping pills lead to an increased risk of cancer-related death as well.

    The behavioral and long-term side effects of sleeping pills could potentially have a serious impact on your life and your health, so it is important to take them into consideration.

    Sleeping Pill Addiction

    Many individuals become reliant on sleeping medications to sleep every night and quickly become addicted. Quitting on their own is often not an option because many sleeping medications require a gradual reduction in dosage to safely discontinue use. Additionally, many individuals experience uncomfortable withdrawals when trying to end their sleeping pill habit. Treatment is available for those with sleeping medication addictions, and it can help individuals return to a normal life and healthy sleep patterns.

    AuthorContent Writer, DrugRehab.com Trey Dyer is a writer for DrugRehab.com and an advocate for substance abuse treatment. Trey is passionate about sharing his knowledge and tales about his own family’s struggle with drug addiction to help others overcome the challenges that face substance dependent individuals and their families. Trey has a degree in journalism from American University and has been writing professionally since 2011. editor ,

    View Sources

    7 Side Effects Of Sleeping Pills You Didn’t Know

    Do you have a habit of taking sleeping pills every night? Are you under the impression that what you are doing is completely fine? Hypnotics or soporific drugs, commonly known as sleeping pills are a type of psychoactive drug that induces sleep and used to make anesthetics and treat insomnia. Many hypnotic drugs are habit-forming and, due to a large number of factors known to disturb the human sleep pattern. Here are the 7 side effects of sleeping pills you didn’t know about.
    1. Prolonged use may develop resistance in the body
    With people battling with insomnia, sleeping pills may be effective initially. However, using such drugs ifor a long period of time will make your body develop immunity against them. This might lead to taking an overdose of such hypnotics, which in turn can be very fatal.
    2. Erratic Behavior
    Some sleeping pills may cause parasomnia which might induce a state of semi-consciousness where the patient may do a lot of things while in sleeping state and may not even remember doing it. Ambien, a hypnotic was reported to have patients engaging in driving, making phone calls, having sex or gorging on candy bars – while more or less asleep – and having no recollection of it.
    3. They are addictive
    Sleeping pills are generally prescribed for a short amount of time, generally not for more than a week. They present a mortal danger when taken in long term. Once the threshold of three months is crossed, it becomes very difficult to let go of these and medical intervention might be needed to let go of this habit after withdrawal symptoms start appearing. It usually worsens the sleeping problems.
    4. Increased risk of death and cancer
    Even when not taken often, taking sleeping pills increases your risk of dying. It is suggested that when insomnia is caused by depression, doctors should treat the disorder, rather than prescribing pills for insomnia. Sleeping pills also make you more prone to developing cancer overtime.
    5. Risk of Memory Loss
    Prolonged use of sleeping pills makes you more susceptible to memory loss. Studies found that the elderly people who are prescribed sleeping pills become more prone to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
    6. Increased risks of acid reflux
    If you have heartburn, you might not want to take sleeping pills for your insomnia. It increases your risk of acid reflux at night, damaging the cells lining the esophagus. Try eating sleep inducing food items, meditation techniques and yoga postures to induce sleep.
    7. Drowsiness
    Taking sleeping pills may make you tired and drowsy for the next day. Sleeping pills are powerful hypnotics and can have a lasting effect till the next day, making you prone to exhaustion. Aromatherapy is a good alternative method to hypnotics.
    However, sometimes taking sleeping pills may become necessary. Make it a point to consult your doctor before using any such hypnotics to get you the best drug for your use.

    Do You Need Sleeping Pills?

    Three out of five Americans have trouble sleeping. In the search for a cure, as many as one in 10 adults in the U.S. turns to prescription drugs to get a good night’s rest. But the results of a recent study may have them losing more sleep.

    The study, published in BMJ Open, followed a total of 34,205 patients (both those who were taking sleeping pills and those who were not) over an average of 2.5 years. They found that people who used sleeping pills regularly were about five times as likely to die during the 2.5 year period. Even those who took fewer than 18 pills a year still had more than triple the risk of dying. The researchers even controlled for patients who were in poor health before beginning the study.

    With this in mind, it’s important that your doctor knows if you are using a sleeping aid. He or she can monitor your use to ensure that you are taking a safe amount and the pill isn’t interacting with other medications you may be taking.

    He or she may also recommend an alternative treatment that can help you feel more rested without the added worry.

    When to Get Help

    Whether you’re currently taking sleep aids or not, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor if you have sleep problems, such as:

    • Thinking you get enough sleep but still feeling tired during the day
    • Falling asleep during meals or conversations
    • Thrashing around and hurting yourself or your sleeping partner as you physically act out dreams
    • Starting a new medication and finding it affects your sleep
    • Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep

    Here are a few questions you may want to ask your doctor:

    1. Could my prescriptions be interfering with my sleep?
    2. Should I get tested for sleep apnea or another sleep disorder?
    3. Is my sleep affected by another health condition? Should I get treated for that?

    You should also be prepared to discuss the details of your sleep problems, including how often you have trouble sleeping, how long it takes you to fall asleep, and how refreshed you feel when you wake up. It’s a good idea to keep a sleep diary before seeing a doctor to answer these questions more accurately.

    Your doctor will be able to assess your sleep problems and determine if you need to take a sleep aid or if there are better treatment options for you. Getting enough sleep is vital to your health and well-being. Take the steps necessary to make it happen.

    Sources: BMJ Open, Krames Staywell, Mayo Clinic, Sleep Foundation

    Sleeping pills help you fall asleep- sure. But at what cost? What are the real side effects of these pills and are they dangerous for our health? While prescribed by doctors, sleeping pills come with real risks that are rarely publicly known. Effectively, few people know the real risks involved in taking sleeping pills: degraded sleep, dependence… In this article, we’ve gathered together studies that clearly establish a link between sleeping pills and increased risk of cancer, memory loss, and sleepiness.

    What are sleeping pills?

    Also known as hypnotics, sleeping pills are obtained via prescription following consultation with a doctor. The name ‘sleeping pills’ is an umbrella term that covers several different types of sleep medication: hypnotics that induce sleep and tranquilizers which lower anxiety levels. This medication uses chemical elements like benzodiazepines, which are in large part responsible for the risks laid out in this article.

    Benzodiazepines

    Benzodiazepines act directly on nerve endings (working with the neurotransmitter- GABA) and muscle fiber to induce sleep and reduce anxiety. They have a relatively long lifespan, leaving the taker feeling groggy during the day too. Habituation and dependence are also a problem- after just 3 weeks of use, the body becomes dependent.

    Risks associated with sleeping pills

    Numerous risks are linked to sleeping pills, making their prescription controversial and much debated within the medical community. These risks, mostly linked to benzodiazepines, affect different parts of the body: brain, muscles etc.

    Higher risk of mortality

    A US study published in the BMJ medical journal proved the link between the use of sleeping pills and mortality risk in patients.

    • Sleeping pills are associated with a risk of death over 4 times (4.6) greater than that of people who do not take them.

    How then can this increased risk be explained? According to researchers, it can increase depression leading to suicide risk. There is also an increased risk of cancer, road accidents, sleepiness.

    Increased risk of cancer

    The same study (published in the BMJ medical journal) also showed evidence linking the use of sleeping pills to cancer.

    • This study revealed that people taking notable benzodiazepines had a 35% higher risk of developing cancer than others. To reach this conclusion, the study took 10,000 adult Americans with an average age of 54, using sleeping pills. This group was monitored for over 2 years and compared with another group of over 23,000 people who had used no medical aid to sleep.

    Memory loss and risk of Alzheimer’s

    An INSERM study established that sleeping pills can aggravate the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and speed up its evolution.

    • The study showed that the use of benzodiazepine for 3 months or more is associated with greater risk (up to 51%) of developing Alzheimer’s.

    What’s more, the study showed that the risk grew with the length of exposure. The longer you take sleeping pills for, the greater the risk will be.

    Sleepiness during the day (and behind the wheel)

    According to a study by the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, taking benzodiazepine increases the risks of road accidents.

    • Taking benzodiazepines increases the risk of having a road accident by over 40%.

    This figure is not to be taken lightly. In France, for example, falling asleep at the wheel is the number 1 cause of death on the highway.

    Risk of dependence and habituation

    Before starting sleeping pills, it’s important to be aware that this can lead to dependence as well as increasing the risk of insomnia following treatment.

    Doctor Sylvie Royant-Parola had this to say in her book: “Hypnotics attach themselves onto nerve cell receptors and can create dependence. Stopping is therefore difficult especially since many patients try to abruptly stop their treatment, which can cause a relapse into insomnia.”

    So stopping sleeping pills may cause another bout of insomnia, creating a vicious cycle for the sufferer.

    Degraded sleep quality

    Taking sleeping pills damages the quality of sleep, deep sleep in particular. Doctor Françoise Goldenberg explains “benzodiazepines modify the architecture of your sleep, making it less rich in slow waves, proving a lack of deep sleep.”

    This decrease in deep sleep has an impact on the body. Insufficiently rested to face the day, accidents related to tiredness and inattention are more likely.

    Other solutions

    As mentioned above, sleeping pills come with several risks (cancer, Alzheimer’s, sleepiness…). These risks can sometimes be fatal. However, they can nevertheless be effective when the risks are limited. For example when doctors prescribe them for short amounts of time.

    It’s also recommended to treat the roots of insomnia (stress, anxiety…) to limit the risks once you stop the pills.

    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) corrects the thoughts (cognitive) and actions (behavioral) that are at the root of larger sleep problems. CBT-I does this by breaking the negative patterns and cycles related to bad sleep and creating new habits and thought processes through set objectives, specific exercises, and close monitoring- be it by a professional or digitally. CBT-I is recognized by the international medical community as the leading reference solution for treating insomnia.

    Sleeping pills: Risks and dangers 4/5 (2 vote)

    Safe Use of Sleep Aids

    Many people find sleep aids helpful for insomnia. Your doctor may recommend that you take a sleep aid to help you fall asleep, sleep longer during the night, wake up less frequently, or improve the quality of your sleep. There are a few things to consider when you’re trying to decide if a sleep aid is the right approach for you:

    • Sleep aids may be a good idea if you’ve tried behavioral changes and other non-medical treatments, but insomnia continues to interfere with daily activities, productivity, or personal relationships.
    • If your insomnia is short-term, sleep aids may help. For example, if you’re having difficulty sleeping as the result of a temporary change to your work schedule, in the case of jet lag, or in advance of a special event or other cause of short-term anxiety and sleep loss.
    • If you and your doctor have determined the cause of insomnia, a particular sleep aid may be indicated for this cause.
    • Discuss with your doctor if your sleep difficulties are having psychological or health consequences.
    • Sleep aids can’t replace healthy sleep habits; good sleep practices are the foundation of proper treatment for insomnia. Especially if your insomnia is long-standing, it’s important to use non-medical approaches, such as proper sleep hygiene, and cognitive behavioral treatments for insomnia. For some, a combination of medical and behavioral treatments may be the best way to manage insomnia symptoms, and for others a sleep aid is used at the beginning of treatment and behavioral techniques take over as a long-term approach.

    Some sleep aids are available by prescription only. This is because it’s important to work with a doctor to decide on the best type, dose, and plan for taking a sleep aid. Over-the-counter sleep aids work for some people, but it’s not a good idea to use these regularly for a long period of time. The best practice is to use a sleep aid with the input of your doctor.

    How to Use Sleep Aids Safely

    Consider these factors to make sure you’re using a sleep aid safely:

    • Consult with your doctor about which type to use, the proper dose, and the best treatment plan. Your doctor will take into account your age and other health factors, as well as the underlying cause of insomnia, if possible. All this information is important in using sleep aids properly.
    • Don’t forget non-medical approaches: If you take a sleep aid, it’s still key to use non-medical approaches, like cognitive behavioral treatments, relaxation exercises, and general sleep tips to establish healthy sleep patterns Multi-component approaches to facilitate sleep onset and maintain sleep is widely held as the best treatment approach.
    • Sleep aids can be very helpful, especially in providing initial relief for people with insomnia, but most doctors agree that they should not be used indefinitely. Your doctor will help you figure out how long to take a sleep aid (the goal being to take a sleep aid for the shortest duration that still provides you with the proper sleep benefits).
    • Over-the-counter sleep aids may help some people in the short term, but they are not intended for longer term use or as a comprehensive fix for insomnia.
    • Follow safety guidelines: It’s important to follow all the safety guidelines of each sleep aid. Read packaging material carefully and talk to your doctor about any precautions you should be aware of, especially as they pertain to your personal health.

    With today’s fast-paced lifestyles and overbooked days, insomnia strikes nearly everyone at some point. It’s normal to have some nights that aren’t as restful as others, but when it happens in a string of nights, you might want to try an over-the-counter sleep aid.

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    We asked neurologist Jessica Vensel-Rundo, MD, to share her suggestions for how to use over-the-counter sleep aids safely. She says if you’re concerned about insomnia and it is ongoing or experience pain or other symptoms, you should talk to your doctor.

    Here are 6 tips to using over-the-counter sleep aids safely:

    1. Allow enough time for a full night’s sleep

    Sleep aids only work correctly if you set aside enough time for shut-eye.

    “We’re looking for them to give help in falling asleep, but added grogginess when people first wake up isn’t what we want,” she says. “Most sleep aids recommend a full eight hours be devoted to sleep, so I encourage patients to ensure they’re sleeping adequately.”

    2. Don’t try sleeping pills before a big day

    Dr. Vensel-Rundo recommends initially trying a sleep aid on a night when you won’t need to wake early, drive or make important decisions the next day.

    If you take a higher dose than intended or you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to experience excessive morning drowsiness. You could also potentially sleepwalk, or even talk on the phone or send emails and texts without remembering it.

    Sleep aids increase drowsiness, but it’s a bad thing if you stay sleepy during the day. “Sleep aids work by activating the sleep centers in the brain and turning off the wake centers,” Dr. Vensel-Rundo says. The medication should help you fall asleep and stay asleep longer, but it shouldn’t knock you out. If you have significant difficulty waking in the morning, tell your doctor.

    What to Do If You or Someone Else Is a SleepWalker

    3. Be on the lookout for side effects

    If you have a history of depression, sleep aids can temporarily make it worse. Headaches and nausea are possible, but they aren’t common side effects.

    The medications also reduce anxiety and relax your muscles, Dr. Vensel-Rundo says.

    “People are more apt to feel drowsy or to sometimes have abnormal thinking or hallucinations,” she says. “It’s usually described as a clouded- or foggy-thought process. We call it sleep drunkenness.”

    4. Only take pills for a short time

    Generally, Dr. Vensel-Rundo says, doctors recommend patients use sleep aids nightly for two to four weeks. If you need help longer, they suggest you only take the medication as needed, such as three nights weekly.

    “There aren’t a lot of long-term studies, so we don’t know the effects of being on sleep aids for a long time,” she says. “Some reports show memory impairment, as well as coordination impairment with some aids.”

    This can be especially dangerous in older people, as they’re already at a higher fall risk with medications.

    5. Don’t stop taking a sleep aid suddenly

    Quitting abruptly can cause rebound insomnia – three to four days of more severe insomnia than usual. Patients can even experience rebound insomnia even after only brief use.

    Instead, Dr. Vensel-Rundo says, gradually wean yourself off over days or weeks. If you take a sleep aid nightly, reduce the dose for a week or two. Repeat this pattern until you no longer need the medication. If you’re already on the lowest dose, cut out taking it one night a week and slowly eliminate additional nights.

    6. Seek help if over-the-counter sleep aids aren’t working

    Insomnia is fairly common, with nearly 50 percent of Americans reporting occasional insomnia. More than 20 percent struggle with it every night. Women are slightly more likely to experience it than men, as are adults older than age 65.

    Eventually, insomnia can lead to heart disease, depression, and injury due to falls or other accidents. In these cases, prescription sleep aids or even some antidepressants – can be helpful, Dr. Vensel-Rundo says.

    When Is it Time for a Sleep Aid?

    Even after taking steps to improve the quality of your sleep—such as sticking with a regular bedtime, cutting back on caffeine, and exercising regularly—some people still struggle to get the amount of sleep they need. It’s a cycle that causes frustration as well as exhaustion. So now what?

    If you are one of the millions of people who struggle to fall asleep every night, you may wonder if taking medication could help you sleep better or longer. It’s a natural question and it doesn’t have an easy answer, especially since there are many different kinds of sleep aids on the market, with different pros and cons.

    Many people find that sleep aids can be helpful for occasional difficulties. Sleep aids are available by prescription or over-the-counter (OTC). There are generally two types of sleep aids: Those that help you fall asleep, and those that reduce the likelihood of waking once you have dozed off. (Some sleep aids offer a combination of the two.) Several prescription sleeping pills are approved for long-term use and produce the desired effect when used as prescribed. With these medications, you may experience some side effects, such as daytime grogginess and memory problems (with long-term use), so be sure to read the safety label and discuss with your doctor if you experience any negative effects.

    OTC sleep aids are not intended for long-term use because many contain antihistamines, and people build up a tolerance to their sedating effects with regular use. Because certain OTC sleep aids can leave you feeling groggy and foggy-headed the next morning, it is wise to take one for the first time on a night when you can sleep in the following morning if necessary.

    OTC and prescription sleep aids can have potentially dangerous interactions when mixed with other medications or alcohol. And due to possible health complications, antihistamine-containing sleep aids may not be recommended for people with chronic conditions, like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), sleep apnea, or urinary retention problems. For all of these reasons and more, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about your sleep.

    Other options include certain natural aids, such as melatonin supplements, that can be taken for a few weeks and may help people who have trouble falling and staying asleep to get better quality shut-eye. It’s a misconception that a higher dosage is better, though, and the long-term effects are not known. Talk with your primary care physician about the pros and cons of natural supplements, as well as the right way to take this sleep aid.

    The bottom line is that if your sleep troubles are affecting your ability to function and feel well on a daily basis, it may be time for some kind of sleep-promoting help. Whether that means medication (either over the counter or prescription) or another intervention (such as a relaxation technique or cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia) is best determined in consultation with your doctor.

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